With most of the Obama health laws set to take effect in just five months, conservatives in both the House and Senate are launching a push to defund Obamacare before most of it is implemented in January.
Led by Utah Sen. Mike Lee and endorsed by the likes of Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, the plan is to attach defunding of Obamacare to the continuing resolution to fund the government that must come by the end of September. The group of 12 senators and 65-70 House members would propose funding the rest of the government at current levels but opposing any continuing resolution that funds the health care law.
Critics say it’s tantamount to shutting down the government over one issue. Lee says conservatives are willing to fund everything else and any government shutdown would be the fault of Obamacare supporters who are willing to hold the rest of government operations hostage to a very unpopular law.
But Democrats are not the only ones cringing at this plan. GOP leaders appear very cool to the idea and even some of the most ardent Obamacare opponents believe this is the wrong approach.
“The Republicans control only the House of Representatives. The Democrats control the Senate and the White House. It’s two-to-one against Republicans in trying to make that work,” said Galen Institute President Grace-Marie Turner, a staunch opponent of government involvement in health care who was prominent in the fights against the Clinton and Obama health care reform efforts. She badly wants to see Obamacare dismantled, but says this approach puts the American people in a terrible position.
“It is a strategy that is going to ask the American people, ‘Is it more important to you to repeal Obamacare or to get your Social Security check or to pay the troops or to make sure that doctors get paid so you can continue to get your Medicare benefit?'” said Turner. “That is a terrible deal. The American people should not be presented with that choice. We have to do this in a very different, smarter way.”
Turner says that “smarter” strategy is already unfolding in the House of Representatives, through recent votes to delay the employer and individual mandates and a scheduled Thursday vote to remove any IRS role in the enforcement of Obamacare. The deck is stacked two-to-one against Republicans on those issues as well, but Turner sees better odds with the current House strategy.
“I think there’s a real chance. There are 35 Democrats who supported the legislation…to delay the employer mandate. Twenty-two Democrats joined all but one Republican in saying that they want to delay the individual mandate,” she said.
Turner admits that still falls short of a veto-proof majority, but she says it’s a far better strategy than risking a government shutdown over a defunding effort.
“If the president wouldn’t sign those provisions even though they’re likely to get a lot of Democratic support, he’s surely not going to sign a full repeal of his signature legislation. It’s really a fool’s errand,” said Turner. “The smart way to begin to dismantle this law is take out the center pillars, the individual mandate, the employer mandate, the IRS enforcement, the ability to distribute subsidies on the honor system. Those four things alone and Obamacare collapses. That’s what we should be talking about, not this intramural warfare among conservatives over the best way to get rid of Obamacare.”
Turner does encourage Republicans to seek other ways to use the continuing resolution as leverage to chip away at Obamacare.